When you think of a Latina actress you probably envision Sofía Vergara before Tatyana Ali, if the Panamanian star comes to mind at all. While both women are proud Latinas, only one of them, colombiana Vergara, fits the “Latin Look” that casting directors search for when filling their token Latina roles.
It’s a struggle just about every Black Latina actress experiences in Hollywood. "When I became an actress I quickly realized that 'the world' liked their Latinas to look Italian, and not like me" recalls cubana Gina Torres in a 2012 mun2 interview. Puertorriqueña Lauren Vélez shares her fellow caribeña’s sentiments. "I couldn't get an audition as a Latina," the Boricua told the Huffington Post that same year.
This is a disservice both to actresses who want to represent their community and to Black Latinas who need to see themselves portrayed in mainstream media. That’s why we are spotlighting the times that Afro-Latinas pushed back and played Latina roles in TV and film.
1. Afro-Latina Actresses
In 2007, cubana Christina Milian played the role of Angela Moreno in "Snowglobe.” Moreno is a Christmas enthusiast whose boisterous Latino familia doesn’t share her love for the holiday. One day, she receives a magical snowglobe and is transported inside, where everyone loves Christmas. She has to decide if she’s going to stay in her navidad heaven or return to her kin. All right, so it’s not the best movie ever, but it does present us with a pretty cool Afro-Latino family. Milian has also played Latina characters in “Need for Speed: Undercover,” “Bring It On: Fight to the Finish” and East Los High.
2. Afro-Latina Actresses
The part-Puerto Rican Meagan Good played the lead role in the FOX show Minority Report. While we don’t really know the ethnicity of Good’s character, Lara Vega, her surname coupled with a scene of the actress speaking Spanish points to some Latina lineage.
3. Afro-Latina Actresses
In “Colombiana,” the Dominican-Puerto Rican Zoe Saldaña plays an accomplished Colombian assassin trying to avenge her family’s death.
4. Afro-Latina Actresses
In the hit TV show Criminal Minds, Afro-Cuban Gina Torres plays Latina character Det. Thea Salinas.
5. Afro-Latina Actresses
Judy Reyes remembers having trouble landing Latina roles early in her career. “I would get really positive reactions in auditions for both African American and Latina parts, but I didn't look Latina enough,” the dominicana told mun2 back in 2012. Still, Reyes became a household name for her part as nurse Carla Espinosa in Scrubs and housekeeper Zoila Diaz on Devious Maids.
6. Afro-Latina Actresses
Part-Puerto Rican Naya Rivera came to fame for her role as Santana Lopez, a tempered lesbian Latina cheerleader and singer, in the teen hit series Glee.
8. Afro-Latina Actresses
“The Best Man” actress Melissa De Sousa, who is of Panamanian descent, is famous for playing African-American roles. But the Black mujer did have a couple minor parts as Latina characters in TV films “Danny Fricke” and “The Ron Clark Story.”
9. Afro-Latina Actresses
Afro-Boricua Rosie Perez has played many Latina characters in her career, but her parts as Tina in “Do the Right Thing” and Gloria Clemente in “White Men Can’t Jump” in the 1990s offered some much-needed early portrayals of Black Latinas.
10. Afro-Latina Actresses
Also bringing in early representation of Afro-Latinas is puertorriqueña Lauren Vélez, who was a lead character in the 1990s TV series New York Undercover, where she played Det. Nina Moreno.